Can you count the times you have heard someone say, “Don’t judge me?” It’s a common phrase that gets misinterpreted often. Certainly, our culture is filled with unfounded judgments. We have lists of judgments carelessly thrown about that segregate people and divides them into good or bad.

To confuse things even more, we are told that true love is to accept and endorse a person’s choices and lifestyles no matter what they are as long as they don’t hurt others. No words of correction-just live and let live.

So how do we think about judgment and the role it plays in our lives? In Matthew 7, Jesus is very direct about judgment when he said, “Judge not lest you be judged.” But what is really meant by this command in the Messiah’s most famous sermon?

Read on in that same passage.

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Is Jesus teaching that we cannot judge anyone or anything? No. He is talking about blind and self-righteous judgment that doesn’t take into account our own faults and sin. The root issue here is pride. When we judge, we assume a position of superiority. Jesus calls these judgers, hypocrites–people who pretend to be something they are not. Jesus sees this heart motive and addresses this put-on piety of self-righteousness. So, Jesus is saying don’t be a hypocrite when you judge.

During this passage, Jesus was talking about heart issues. His teachings were pointing out the problems with critical and condemning people. He opposes those who look down at people while thinking they have it all together. He was addressing many of the religious leaders of the day.

The message is to be careful. Examine your heart. Judgment can cause you to wrongly interpret what is happening to someone. Here is a poignant example, a man was on a subway and his young son was running all over the train. People were getting irritated with him for not controlling his son. Finally, someone spoke up and accused him of being a bad father as he appeared to ignore his son’s out of control behavior.  Stunned, he said, “My wife just died, and we just left the hospital.” People on that subway were quick to judge a man who was suffering incredible pain. They had no idea what was happening in this life. The take-away here is don’t presume to judge a person’s hidden heart.

So, go ahead and lovingly speak the truth to a fellow believer. But make sure you check your own heart and repent from your sin as well. Stay humble with the goal of grace, reconciliation or helping a brother or sister. We are to call out sin but not with a critical spirit. The goal of right judgment needs to be to restore a person caught in sin.

If you are someone who easily judges, then work toward more compassion and understanding. This requires getting the facts first, then extending grace. God is merciful and so should we be.

Understand the meaning of judge not